Cheesed

I was born in and grew up in large cities–Detroit, Chicago and Cleveland. With that big-city-supermarket-only detachment, I still look at farm life as a Disneyland attraction. City soft hands vs farm rough hands–same mentality.

But last week I, by chance, attended an Alpabzug held in a village in the Berner Oberland, Jungfrau Region, Switzerland.

…stars of the show…

Alpabzug und Chästeilet! says with exclamatory enthusiasm, we are having a party to celebrate our cows’ return home from the Alpine summer pastures and their cheese distribution.

The Alpabzug is a village festival where the people in the village come out on the main street to a parade of cows that welcomes the cows back home after their season up in the mountains. It is a jolly time.

The parade, led by trychlers (bell-ringers) finishes on the edge of town for a day long festival where people take photos of the cows’ head-dresses, enjoy each others’ company, jodelers, traditional music, eat chäsbraetli (raclette on bread) and buy the cheese made that year on the mountain.

…observing the decorated cows…

The parade through the village reached the festival ground where the residents gathered to appreciate the cows with a party.

…feted cows…

Village families make close relationships with the cows.

…head dresses…

Farmers make decorative head dresses for the cows.

…craftsmanship…

Decorative craftsmanship demonstrates human respect paid to the cows.

…raclette on ruchbrot…

Open-faced raclette cheese sandwiches enjoyed by more than a hundred people.

…party time…

The cheese from this summer has been brought for distribution to the village residents.

…un morceau s'il vous plait…

Each farmer has summer cheese displayed and ready for taste testing.

…good times…

This season’s cheese, muetschli, for sale at 22CHF/kg is sold alongside jellies and jams made from local fruits and berries.

I like how the production and consumption of food is an intimate part of village life. I am amazed that it is still occurring as a village event—not a tourist event.

In my idealistic interpretation, I see the people thanking the cows for the milk given to produce the cheese that will be eaten throughout the wintertime.

What is the way it is said—local food by and for local people. 🙂

Humans + Landscape = ?

In between my infrequent blog entries, which always focus on humans and landscape, I am writing adventure novels, not surprisingly on humans and landscape.

As you can see from the menu bar above, I have been working on four novels over the past six years.

In preparation for updating them on my blog this fall, I have had some fun doing themed graphic design, one composite image for each of the four novels.

Themed graphics?

Yes—unique to each novel—humans interacting with the exotic geography and inspirational landscape around them, with the lightest  sprinkling of ethnobotany.

I have interpreted each of the four novels below and I hope you find them enjoyable.

If so, recommend them to your like-minded friends, please.

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This is the least developed adventure to date. The story revolves around a coffee house in Vienna–a place where for centuries East and West have and continue to struggle…over espresso…the text offering a brief respite.

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The landscape background is the Arabian Peninsula’s Empty Quarter where surface sand patterns take us to Julian eternities and the sun takes away our sight. The botanical panel is the date palm, Phoenix canariensis providing food, utensils, environmental and architectural shelter. The human craft panel is carved stone–essential discipline. The text is the gold ring.

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The Moroccan landscape background threatens with an irritating red born of never-truly-healed and always festering cultural conflict wounds–North African, Arabian, Sub-Saharan African and European–in equal measures macerating humans over millennia. The botanical panel is the fruit and foliage of the fig, Ficus carica–rare relief. The human craft shows patterns from North African Berber wool carpets–practical essentials. The text is the shelter humans take from the native and endemic forms of the plant, Cannabis sativa. The dreams are real life.

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The dark green and blue landscape background is the edge of our dreams always implanted by the highland mountains, forests, lakes, rivers and streams of the Swiss Alps. The botanical panel is the gentian, Gentiana acaulis, whose blue beauty, paired with our rare good fortune, beckons human transformation. The human craft panel patterns are the lace of internal order. The text is the promise of clarity–or is it simply the hope of clarity?